Ranking for Local Keywords

The Local SEO Advantage

Local SEO marketing is very different from general SEO. One of the best resources for local search engine optimisation is a Google my business site. These are a free resource that can provide a huge boost to local businesses in their marketing campaigns. Google does a lot of changes to their local listings. In the past, they have listed seven local sites on the Google my business area, however, now only three local sites are listed in this area. Local businesses will have to adjust their local SEO strategy to remain in the new three pack.

Strategy for staying relevant in Google’s local search

  • Google my business pages with some starred reviews seem to do better in the rankings than those with few or no reviews, so send the URL of Google my business page for your best customers and ask them to leave a review.
  • Try to edit your business page to become more specialised in the search keywords. For instance, instead of web designer use WordPress web designer.
  • Try to get links from local businesses, perhaps join a local Chamber of Commerce or BNI group.
  • Do not focus solely on Local search engine optimisation. Your local SEO efforts should be part of a wider strategy to get better ranking, such as regular SEO and social media.
  • Check that your business hours are correct.
  • Consider adding a photo of yourself, a picture of your business, customers using your products and images of what your business does best.
  • For bricks and mortar businesses, a 360-degree view or virtual tour will give a potential customer insight into what exactly you do in your business.
  • Respond to your reviews, both positive and negative, as this shows potential customers the way you do business.

The Google my business dashboard

Google has amalgamated Google places Google plus pages on Google local listings into the new Google my business dashboard. The dashboard will allow users to update their business information efficiently to help people find their most up-to-date business info. Google my business also allows a company to share updates which their Google plus followers, check out insight data on their Google plus user engagement page and to view Google Analytics data and YouTube channel data in one place.

As soon as they Google business page has been verified, new features will be made available. These include viewing insight data on how users found your Google business information page and viewing and responding to customer reviews.

Tips to get the most out of your Google my business page

  • Make sure your listing is as complete and as accurate as can be. Specific business name, physical address and phone numbers the marker in the maps in the correct place is a good place to start.
  • As Google integrates information from your website to the Google my business page, it is important to list your official business website on the local listing.
  • Fill the profile out with the text boxes, photos and videos. By adding all these elements to your page, you will make your page stand out from the rest, and as a result, it will have better visibility.
  • Make sure that you choose the right category for your business. There are three main types; storefront businesses, service area businesses and brand pages.

Reviews and citations

When users review your Google business page, they leave feedback and between one and five stars. Google sees the feedback as giving positive user experience and will rank the page in the three pack.
Citations are seen as backlinks from directories and local interest web pages. All the citations should have the exact same business name, address, telephone number and email address. Having good quality citations is a ranking factor in the three pack.

Local SEO is very important to local businesses, as it is a way to compete with just the same niche businesses in that area.

Keyword research is probably the most important aspect of SEO, as Google and other search engines assess the quality of web pages primarily, by the words in the content of the pages. Choosing keywords to target is a balancing act between the competitiveness of the keyword and the volume of monthly searches. When you get keyword research right, you are likely to achieve higher rankings in search engines, which usually results in greater amount of web traffic.

The process of keyword research involves the use of keyword research tools and also taking about searcher intent. There are many free keyword tools, which you can utilise for your research. The most common tool used keyword analysis is the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, which is available in your AdWords account (you do not need to use AdWords to have AdWords account).

This tool can estimate the search volume of the keyword, generation new keywords with a combination of keyword lists, produce keyword variations based on the root keyword and provide a degree of competitive analysis by examining keywords used on competitors’ websites.

The AdWords Keyword Planner has its limitations, however, as it does not show long-tail keywords and it is primarily a tool for AdWords, and not specifically built for SEO. There are other options, such as Google Suggest, which are also free.

Google Suggest or auto complete is a tool which automatically suggests frequently search terms when a user types a word into the Google search field. It works mainly by displaying words which users searched for previously, which are related to the base keyword. While this tool is not a keyword research tool, it can generate keyword ideas, which can then brainstormed.
If you intend to use Google Suggest as an SEO tool, you will need to sign out of Google as Google will use your history as suggestions when you have signed into Google.
The Google planner tool and Google suggest are just two ways, which you can improve your SEO at no cost. Both have their uses and their limitations, and if you want to drill down and find real keyword nuggets, then you should consider premium SEO tools for keyword research. I will be discussing some of these in the following paragraphs.

Free tools for keyword research can only do so much, and if you want to dig deeper, then you are going to have to invest in a paid keyword tool. Many SEO keyword tools offer a free trial, and I would encourage anyone to avail of a few free trials, before deciding on buying a keyword analysis tool.

Market Samurai is one such company which offer a free trial. In fact, this was the first keyword research tool that I bought and one that I still use today. Market Samurai is a stand-alone research tool that helps to research the best keywords in your niche. While it is strong in keyword research and can help small businesses in optimising their keyword performance, it is not as robust as some other paid tools in competitor analysis, but it is a once off cost of $149 (at the time of writing),  while most other paid tools are subscription based.
Subscription-based tools will work out more expensive as they are paid every month, but they can also offer more functionality and greater research.

Two of the best subscription based SEO keyword research tools are SemRush and Serped. SemRush has been around for a while and is a favourite among SEO consultants and Internet marketers. It is fantastic for unearthing valuable long tail keywords and discovering competitors’ keywords.  However, it is much more than a keyword tool; it also has other SEO tools, PPC tools and brand management tools.
Serped is rather new to the market and may not be well known as it is only open to new members for short periods. Serped is an all round suite of tools that help you find the ideal expired domain, analyse keywords and competition and get backlinks to your website. It uses data from SemRush, Majestic, Ahrefs among others. The price starts at $79 per month, and I find this tool essential for SEO.

Keyword research is probably the most important topic for those interested in getting higher ranking in the search engines and of course, traffic. If you are a novice in SEO, then you should start with the free tools; Google planner tool and Google suggest. These will give you a good start on your SEO journey. When you are more experienced, you can try a paid tool like SemRush or Serped, if it is available at that time.

Link building is an important part of SEO, as backlinks are a vote of approval from other sites. All links are not equal. A link from a high authority website like RTE.ie carries much more weight than a link from a random site. A link from a site in the same or similar niche will be a lot more relevant than a link from a website which is unrelated to yours. There are many different categories of links, a few which I will discuss here.

An editorial link is a natural link received because of good content and good marketing of the website. The Webmaster does not usually request these but is given by other Webmasters.
An acquired link is one which day Webmaster had to pay for or work for by comments on forums, blogs or other online media.
A reciprocal link is where each of two sites links to each other. Google does not give much credit to reciprocal links.
Forum signature linking is often used as a technique to build links back to the website. Many forum moderators will allow this linking when the user adds value by helping others and answering questions on the forum topics.
Directory links are links for website owners to submit their site under specific categories. Subdirectories are free, and others require payment.
Commenting on a blog post which is relevant to your content can result in a good link back to your website. Most of these blog comment links are no-follow, which are not at all, as valuable as do-follow links.
These are just some of the types of backlinks that are website can have pointed to it. It is also important, how they think is formatted, is it an image, anchor text or naked URL?

Webmaster has to be careful with the quality and quantity of anchor text links pointing to his site. Branded links such as the brand name of the website, the URL of the site and variations of the URL (https://www.website.ie, http://website.ie, website.ie & www.website.ie) should ideally be the text for the majority of links coming back to the site. Smaller proportions of anchor text with targeted keyword terms will then work better, and the website will steer clear of over optimisation and the Penguin penalty. A lot of websites were this for keyword stuffing of the anchor texts. Keyword stuffing was a method that worked in the past, but now, will damage your site. If your anchor text is over optimised perhaps by some previous SEO work, a press release may help. The press-release will be syndicated to a lot of news sites and will have anchor texts with a naked URL pointing back to your site. This distribution will dilute they anchor text which was over optimised.

To examine the backlink profile of a website, you will need to specific tools, such as AHREFS, Majestic, SemRush or  Serped. You can usually get a free trial to these SEO tools, and if you are a single business, this trial period will probably be ideal to try without paying for a subscription. These tools will show you, how many backlinks you have, from how many domains and the anchor text linking. They will also show you the percentage of no-follow versus do-follow links, and the percentage of text links versus image links. These features are all very useful information when you are trying to assess the strength of your current backlinks. You can also use these tools to check out who is linking to similar websites in your niche.

The nature of backlinking has changed. It is not about the number of backlinks anymore; it is now about the quality and relevance of the sites and pages that link to your site.

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